nickelalloy in clean energy (marketing department of Shanghai HY Industry Co., Ltd)
Recently, the International Energy Agency released a report, The Role of Key Minerals in the Clean Energy Transition, which forecasts the demand for metals and minerals needed to replace unsustainable power generation methods with low-carbon emission technologies. The report points out the importance of nickel in clean energy technology application in high, medium and low grades.
Nickel, which is the key to making the alloy tough, is used in small amounts but plays a major role in the successful application of clean technology. Taking hydropower generation as an example, although the amount of nickel in hydropower generation is small, it is very important for the welding performance of turbine blades and prolonging the service life of dam gate components. In some applications, nickel can even be said to be indispensable to these technologies. A good example is biofuel production, which relies heavily on nickel-containing stainless steel. In fact, many energy sources require some form of nickel, and all clean energy technologies use nickel. Below is a detailed description of the role that nickel plays in three clean energy sources: geothermal, hydropower and wind power.
geothermal (nickelalloy in clean energy)
Geothermal can generate electricity and also heat homes and other buildings. The concept is simple – steam or pressurized hot water above 150°C is piped to the surface, drives a generator to generate electricity, and then cools it. The cooler water is piped to the central heating system and then returned to the ground for natural heating. One of the main advantages of geothermal energy, unlike solar or wind energy, is that it is stable and reliable. At present, the production of geothermal energy is very limited, with a production capacity of only about 16GW, and it is limited to places with shallow groundwater sources, generally within 3km. The capital costs of geothermal power plants tend to be higher than other sustainable technologies, however, continuous operation of the system can justify the value for money.
The quality of groundwater or steam is strongly regional. Some waters contain large amounts of chlorides and hydrogen sulfide and are highly corrosive. This is where nickel-containing alloys are needed. Some geothermal projects, such as the Salton Lakes project in California, make heavy use of nickel-based alloys such as Hastelloy C-22 (N06022), but many others can use low-alloy materials.
Take the Hellisheiði power station near Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, for example, which is the sixth largest geothermal power station in the world. The power station generates 303 MW of electricity and 400 MW of thermal energy, which is transported to the city via a 19.5km long pipeline to heat homes and businesses. The water temperature of the geothermal well is about 200°C and contains a small amount of chloride and hydrogen sulfide. Materials used in this system range from typical carbon steel casing alloys to various grades of stainless steel and even high nickel alloys. The key components using nickel-containing materials are turbines, condensers, heat exchangers, pumps and piping systems. The stainless steels used are 17-4ph (S17400), 316L (S31603), various duplex alloys, 6% molybdenum alloy ( S31254) and nickel alloy Inconel 625 (N06625). Among the alloy materials used in power generation equipment, nickel is used in an amount of about 100 tons. In the right application environment, these materials can provide a clean surface with good corrosion resistance, strength and heat transfer for cost-effective service.
hydroelectric power (nickelalloy in clean energy)
Hydroelectric power is currently the largest source of renewable electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, hydropower capacity will grow by 70% by 2040, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region. Hydropower will be the main source of renewable energy in the future. There will be more and more hydroelectric power plants. In addition, the renovation and upgrading of old plants should make use of existing technologies to extend the service life of equipment and increase energy production.
Most hydroelectric systems have dams that supply water to the turbines. Nickel is used in their key components, so nickel will play a greater role in the future. The core of the power plant is the generator, which consists of a runner, a rotor and a stator. The pressurized water flow drives the runner, and the magnetic rotor rotates in the stator to generate electricity. Typically, turbines are made of nickel-containing stainless steel. Both corrosion-resistant and cavitation-resistant. Turbine models and specifications are different, and the volume is generally large. Weldability and welding repairability are the keys to selecting materials. Therefore, the most durable turbines are made of nickel-containing martensitic stainless steels and austenitic stainless steels such as 410NiMo (UNS S41500), EN 1.4488, 304 (S30400) and the corresponding cast materials.
The size of the stator is also large, and the non-magnetic properties of nickel-containing austenitic stainless steels are key to ensuring the performance of the stator, especially the NITRONIC 50 (S20910) alloy.
As water pressure and volume increase, components are subject to wear. Adding nickel can improve the durability of the material. High-strength, low-alloy steel will be the best material for future diversion pipes (large-diameter pipes that supply water to turbines). The diversion pipe can be up to 10m in diameter. Using high-strength steel can reduce the weight of the pipe and increase the diameter of the pipe. The addition of nickel to these alloys can promote the formation of high-strength martensitic phases and improve the weldability of water diversion pipes. Nickel-containing materials have the advantages of low cost, material saving and high efficiency, and will play an important role in future hydropower generation.
wind power (nickelalloy in clean energy)
In recent years, wind power generation has developed rapidly, and the global wind power generation scale has approached 750GW. The cost of wind power has fallen, and the maximum power of wind turbines has reached 10 MW. More powerful wind turbines are being developed that use less material, which means less material per megawatt of energy, an important criterion for sustainability. Nickel plays a key role in this. Nickel is mainly used in stainless steel, and in wind turbines, many safety-related components, such as ladders, control panels and fasteners, must use stainless steel. The main role of nickel in wind power generation is to improve the strength and toughness of low alloy steels. Many alloying elements increase the strength and hardness of steel, however, nickel is one of the few that increases toughness. Toughness represents the ability of a material to absorb mechanical energy during deformation, which is critical to the operation of wind turbines.
The wind turbine gearbox carries the most important rotating components. The gearbox weight of an 8MW wind turbine can reach 86t. Replacing components or entire gearboxes of onshore wind turbines in the event of a major failure can be prohibitively expensive, and for offshore wind installations, O&M and downtime costs can be astronomical. Therefore, reliability and long life are necessary factors to ensure the economics of wind power.
The weight of the gearbox cannot be ignored, the gearbox is installed in the nacelle, the entire nacelle is supported by the tower, and it is in a strong wind environment. For every 1kg reduction in the weight of the cabin, the material consumption of the tower can be reduced by 10kg.
Design is key, but material selection is equally important. Most of the steel from which gearboxes are made today contains nickel, with some components having as high as 2% nickel. For 20MW wind turbines under development, alloy steels with higher nickel content are recommended. In order to reduce weight and improve reliability, components that currently do not contain nickel may use materials containing 0.5% nickel in the future
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